Home Training for Wrestling
Wrestling training may be on hold for many in the USA and worldwide for now, and for quite a time to come. While many may have home mats and elite athletes have some access to their training centers, athletes across the globe are faced with a lack of equipment and ideas. Wrestling demands a high level of strength, power, and endurance, not even to mention technique drilling and a lack of possibility to get live matches in, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility to think you’re just going to have to wait for lockdowns to lift and practices to resume. But, nothing is guaranteed. As an athlete struggling myself, here are some of my suggestions to the wrestlers who will go above and beyond and make the most out of this time. And who knows, you might end up in the best shape you’ve ever been in.
Wrestling is a very mentally dependent sport. It’s very easy to let mental training fall by the side, especially when you consider that relative to information about physical training, very little is easily accessible in regards to mental training, especially specifically for wrestling. WrestlingMindset is a company that specializes in this, with programs for both a team or individual, and many free tips on both their instagram and website. I subscribed to their text list, and every morning around 8am I receive a great quote or link to a resource or video to get my mind right. They also host a podcast accessible on most platforms (I use spotify) wherein they discuss mindset with many of wrestling’s greatest coaches and athletes, such as Kenny Monday, Jon Reader, Gabe Dean and others. Podcasts can also serve as a way to occupy yourself on long runs, where a common issue is less sheer intensity, and more boredom as the miles add up. Visualization, writing about your day, and notes on what film you watch are all little steps that add up to your improvement once the season comes around. Nate Jackson, a wrestler for the NJRTC and NCAA All American for the University of Indiana has cited mental reps of moves he sees on films as a key component of his training. In addition to studying film for moves, you can study interviews of high level athletes and champions to get an idea of what mindset you want to develop going into big matches. Ben Askren, who needs no introduction, has had a video series called “Mental Mondays” running for years, a wealth of wrestling mindset tips and philosophies. Right now is such a great opportunity to get ahead of your competition, both mentally and physically. Do not let your mental game fall by the wayside.
Many high level athletes hold by the idea that “the best strength and conditioning for wrestling is wrestling.” This absolutely holds true at every level of the sport. Mat time will solve almost every problem one faces in the sport. Cutting weight? Shadow wrestling in layers will get the water out quickly. Struggling with a position? Wrestle there until you perfect it, and you will also develop the strength and muscle memory necessary.
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Wrestling should be at the forefront of your training for wrestling. That being said, every high level wrestler also puts in the work in the weight room. Those of you reading with a home barbell and plates, great! You can train as normally in terms of strength. For those like me who have minimal equipment, here’s my general list of concepts to apply to your home conditioning:
- Volume: I personally train 2-3 times a day, 3 during weekdays and 2 during weekends. Basically keep your workouts to one conditioning focus, one strength focus one skill focus
- Shadow Wrestling: mat or no, partner or no, you can do stance and motion anywhere. Personally my morning workout is stance and motion, as Zain Retherford put out a guided stance and motion workout on his instagram. You follow the workout for 30 or so minutes and you can even add in a visualization element at the end with short time rounds. It’s a great sweat, sport specific, and it starts your day right.
- Get a mat: although a purchase that sets you back a bit, you can find good mats for around $500 at the lowest. If you can afford it and have the space, order one and you now have a designated training space, and an excellent tool even for when practices open up again as you can have drill partners and put in the extra work to get ahead of the competition.
- Cardio: your first and foremost cardio should be stance and motion. In no particular order, the other ways to train your gas tank will be jump rope, hill sprints, walking lunges, any loaded carries, circuit training, and swimming if you can. Long distance running, while common, isn’t sport specific, has more form involved than you’d think and isn’t very “bang for your buck”. Getting the miles in once a week or so can be a great mental break (my Sunday routine is simply a few miles of running and drilling, making it the closest thing I have to a rest day)
- Strength:dumbbells and bands are going to be your most valuable tools. You can wrap a band around your waist, tie it to a post and drill shots, pull it, push, all with variable resistance. The Russians are some of the best in the world, and while technique will trump strength, they use band training from a young age and many have said the Russians have some of the best wrestling strength in the world. Dumbbells, depending on the weight, can be used for single limb movements to up the intensity. Bulgarian Split Squats are going to be a great primary movement, as are lunges, and dumbbell front squats can challenge your whole body (not a goblet squat, instead of one dumbbell, hold two at your shoulders as if you are about to do an overhead press.) Strong legs are the foundation for a good wrestler, but you should also practice bridging to work the anterior muscles of the leg. Finally, a bar, tree branch, even towels in your doorway can be used for the most crucial exercise for wrestlers: pull ups.
I personally have my strength workout around noon, as I’ll have recovered adequately from the morning and it will let me recover before an evening drill.
How you react to adversity says a lot about you as both a person and as an athlete. It’s fine to enjoy a little bit of a break, but always get back to training 100% after any day off. Or, if you’d rather not have a day off, it’s simple: keep training fun. We all want the gold medal, at whatever level we compete at. But to avoid burning out and to remember why we’re here in the first place, to have fun, can unblock the mental barriers of “ugh this workout will suck” “I’ll do it later”. Wrestle not to win, wrestle because you love wrestling. Good luck to everyone, and I assure you we will wrestle again, so keep your chins up.
Want more at-home tips to keep your skills sharp? Check out Wrestle From Home Hand Fighting Drills & Workouts By Logan Stieber!